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Cablegate: Dutch Cabinet Approves Sfir Extension;

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS THE HAGUE 002987

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: MOPS MARR PREL IZ NL
SUBJECT: DUTCH CABINET APPROVES SFIR EXTENSION;
PARLIAMENTARY DEBATE WEEK OF DEC 8

REF: THE HAGUE 2911(NOTAL)

1. (SBU) The Dutch Cabinet decided on November 28 to extend
Dutch participation in the Stabilization Force in Iraq
(SFIR) by six months to end in July 2004. The Dutch
currently have approximately 1100 personnel (mostly Dutch
Royal Marines) serving as part of the UK's Multi-national
Division Southeast in Al Muthanna province. In order to
enhance the troops' safety, a reconnaissance unit of 70
Dutch Army Special Forces commandoes will also be sent to
Iraq. The Dutch contribution will be maintained at about
1,125 troops. The Cabinet also decided to send a fourth
Chinook helicopter to enhance the mobility of Dutch forces.

2. (SBU) The Cabinet's action constitutes a "formal
decision," however in the Dutch consensus-based system, the
matter will have to be debated by Parliament (currently
expected for the week of December 8). While unlike in
Germany, formal parliamentary approval for military
deployments is not necessary, a Dutch government would be
unlikely to proceed if confronted with widespread opposition
(Comment: While parliamentary discussion of this issue will
likely be noisy, including potential demands for additional
force protection measures beyond the commandoes, all
parties, except the left-wing Socialists and Green Left are
expected to support the proposed extension. End comment.)

3. (U) At his weekly press conference after the Cabinet
meeting, PM Balkenende stressed that the international
community should not turn its back on Iraq even as it also
must keep a close watch on the security risks. In a letter
to parliament, FM de Hoop Scheffer and Defense Minister Kamp
pointed out the Dutch detachment helps to establish security
and stability in Al Muthanna and creates the right
conditions for the political and economic reconstruction
process in this part of Iraq. The letter assets that good
progress has been made, but the troops' continued presence
is required to reinforce and strengthen security and
stability. It also notes that the Dutch detachment carries
out patrols together with the Iraqis, trains Iraqi police
and supports the local new political structures, thus
facilitating an early transfer of power to the Iraqi people.

4. (SBU) Following attacks on other coalition members
including the Italians at Nasiriyah, some Dutch MPs have
expressed strong concerns as to whether the GONL is taking
adequate measures to protect Dutch personnel. The Cabinet's
decision to send the commandoes has met with wide approval.
Some questions have been raised as to whether there has been
sufficient information sharing on security threats among
coalition partners, and if Dutch assets such as maritime
patrol aircraft should be deployed. Defense Minister Kamp
has rejected this stating, "the GONL is convinced that the
Coalition will share information that is relevant to the
Netherlands. Thus far, any request by the Dutch battalion
commander for air reconnaissance has been met," and that
"intensive" talks have again been conducted with the UK
about "intensification of the exchange of reconnaissance
information and intelligence on the local security
situation, the border area with Saudi Arabia in particular,
between the Dutch detachment and the British Division HQ in
Basra."

Sobel

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